Friday, November 24, 2006

Zuppa di Cipolle – Onion Soup Valdostana Style

Gourmet foods and gourmet cooks, terms often misused to indicate someone who cooks elaborate dishes. In reality gourmet cooking is about understanding balance and consistency. Fresh ingredients put together in a way to compliment each other. Sometimes very delicate where your mind has to stop and think about what it is tasting. Other times explosions of flavor. In either case it is all about the balance. Traditional recipes, matured and refined over the centuries are the true expression of gourmet cooking. Their simplicity surprises us. We cannot believe that something so exquisite was so easy to prepare. The Zuppa di Cipolle Valdostana is one of these recipes.

Onion soup is an integral part of French Cuisine, in particular it is widely used in Paris. Onion soup casseroles are also found in numerous regional diets across the world, so it is easy to think that the Valdostana “seuppa de s’eignon” finds its origin elsewhere. However, there are various factors supporting the thesis that this is a homegrown recipe. A close look at the ingredients and the plants grown in home gardens during the first millennium AD leads to believe that the recipe grew out of available ingredients and necessity. Every garden had onions and a small amount of Fontina or Tome cheeses.

Further supporting evidence is that Valdostana bread was cooked only once a year in jointly owned, town ovens. The bread would then be consumed throughout the year but as the year progressed it would begin to get harder and harder. Now that is “day old” bread! Bread has always been a mainstay during hard times and when times were really hard it was the only form of nutrients available. Making a broth from an old bone to give it some flavor and throw in a few vegetables and you have substance and flavor. More importantly you went to bed with a full stomach, something not to be taken lightly when you are hungry.

Whether this gourmet soup, once a lifesaving meal, was born in Valle d’Aosta or somewhere else in the world is not important. It is marvelously flavorful, simple and nutritious.


5 or 6 medium sized sweet onions
Tuscan or other home style loaf bread
1 ½ quart meat broth
½ lb (200 g) Fontina
½ stick unsalted, sweat cream butter
salt and pepper


Clean the onions. Slice them very thin and sauté with butter, over low heat in a heavy skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste. I prefer using fresh cracked pepper. I add the pepper to the butter before adding the onions. This will take about 40 minutes.

Slice the Tuscan bread about ½ inch thick.

In a high rimmed casserole pan, place a few slices of bread. Spread the ½ the onions on top of the bread. Place another piece of bread and cover again with the remaining onions, again sprinkling salt and pepper.

Top off with the Fontina cheese slices. Finally pour the broth into the casserole and fill to the top.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake until the top is golden brown. This will take 15-20 minutes.

For white wine lovers accompany with a Sauvignon Bianco. For red wine lovers accompany with a Barbara, Barolo, or Barbaresco.


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Blogger cybercasey said...

This looks really yummy and thanks for the recipe too....i just love trying new dishes during the holidays...will surely try this one out during this holiday season...and hey i also posted a couple of recipes on my Holiday Blog as visit it sometime and share some fun of the holiday season!!!

9:27 PM

Anonymous Jennifer said...

This one I might have to try to make. It looks awesome.

I bet you had the best spread in town on Thansgiving Day :)

5:25 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Casey, thank you.

Jennifer No, I would say our thankgiving was very humble. We were at home this year. I made fresh pasta and Raffaella made this great pumpkin filling. She made them into Capellini (little hats), a little butter, sage and Parmesan on top. A good bottle of white wine and the Cowboys football game finished everything off.

6:12 AM

Anonymous charles said...

How lucky of you to taste those lovely gourmet food. Fab!

8:06 AM

Anonymous The Artist said...

Well stated about simplicity and balance making for top food, so very true, best wishes, The Artist.

12:16 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Charles I know you cook. I'll bet you put together some marvelous dinners.

Artist Perhaps balance is one of those keys of life that must be mastered to achieve happiness. I know it works for me in food.

5:38 AM


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